Kids have their own language. Acronyms, emojis, urban dictionary trends—it’s the age-old evolution of communication in which totally tubular (80s) becomes phat (90s) which becomes cool beans (2000s) which, in today’s world, is apparently lit.
How can a parent keep up?
We can’t, really, nor should we have to. But true communication has nothing to do with slang terminology. It has everything to do with Bible truth.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29)
When communicating with my growing children, I aim to approach every conversation with this verse in mind. I want my words to be helpful, encouraging, and beneficial—even when that means holding my kids accountable or reprimanding a misdeed. So how, exactly, can we apply this approach to our daily interaction with our tweens? Here are some tips.
Consider their emotions, not just their behavior. Kids are figuring out their place in this world, and tweens especially are exploring what it means to be individuals apart from their parents. When they mess up, don’t immediately go for the jugular by attacking their behavior or choices. First, consider how they’re feeling about their behavior or choices. Are they most likely embarrassed, remorseful, confused, or afraid? If YOU were feeling that way, how would you want your parents to respond to you? Let’s be careful not to kick our kids when they’re down.
Build trust (instead of walls). Are you more interested in being in control of your child, or in relationship with your child? As our kids grow, we parents transition from dictator to coach. We’re on the same team, offering guidance and encouragement, building trust as we work together toward a common goal of “winning” at life. That means Mom and Dad must be a safe place for kids to share their thoughts, weaknesses, questions, and mistakes.
Make your criticism constructive, not destructive. Sometimes a coach’s job involves pointing out opportunities for improvement. But how we do it makes a load of difference. If we parents deliver nothing but nit-picking and scolding, our kids will tune us out, lose their respect for our guidance, or become discouraged. Constructive criticism, on the other hand, encourages and empowers our kids to grow. So let’s be careful how (and how often) we’re revolving our conversations around what our kids should change, and make sure we’re also affirming their positive qualities.
Love above all. Finally, remember God loves His children unconditionally, therefore so should we. Remind your tweens again and again that you love and accept them no matter what. If you need to reprimand or redirect, explain that your issue is with your child’s behavior, not her person—and your concerns are for her character, not her perfection. “About all, love one another deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)
And speaking of perfection, we parents aren’t necessarily going to get these tips right every time. But in those moments when you wish you’d handled a conversation differently, simply humble yourself and apologize. One of the best ways we can teach our kids about God’s love and forgiveness is by giving them opportunities to dole it out to us. And such “beneficial” talk can result in building up the whole family, in Jesus’ name.